Midweek Update

Midweek Update

It’s another rainy night in Bethesda.

Fierce Pharma reports that “the U.S. has ordered 800 million doses [of various COVID-19 vaccines currently in phase 3 testing] for a country with a population of about 330 million, likely under the assumption that some vaccines won’t make it through clinical testing. The government is “assembling a broad portfolio of vaccines to increase the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” HHS secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.”

The Wall Street Journal informs us that

Doctors, nursing homes and federal officials are scrambling to get rapid-response Covid-19 antigen testing supplies from the two companies that secured emergency approval to produce them, as cases continue to rise in the U.S.

Rapid-response antigen tests make up a small but growing area of Covid-19 testing in the U.S. and are seen as helpful in tamping down outbreaks because they offer faster results than many molecular tests that must be sent to labs for processing. The tests search for virus proteins while other tests look for the virus’s genetic material.

Quidel Corp. QDEL 4.36% and Becton Dickinson & Co., the only companies that so far have federal emergency authorization to supply such diagnostic tests, also make machines that process them. The boxlike test-analyzers, which before the pandemic processed tests for ailments such as the flu, are found in doctors’ offices and nursing homes, allowing facilities to avoid shipping samples to commercial labs for processing. They can deliver results in about 15 minutes and process dozens of samples an hour.

Quidel is struggling to produce enough analyzers to meet demand, while Becton Dickinson’s challenge is making enough tests, the companies say. * * *

Public health officials have raised some concerns that rapid antigen tests deliver false-negative results at a higher rate than other tests. But federal officials have said that, as these tests become more widespread, they appear equal in sensitivity to the more broadly used polymerase chain reaction diagnostic tests.

Perhaps Kodak can help (FEHBlog humor).

Fierce Healthcare lets us know that “According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Pharmacy study, the expansion of pharmacy companies into the primary care realm has driven ‘significant increases in both satisfaction and consumer spending.'” On a related note, Forbes reports that “CVS Health is back on track with the rollout its new health hub concept to 1,500 stores across the U.S. within the next two years despite the continuing spread of the coronavirus strain Covid-19. CVS Health currently has 205 HealthHubs opened in 22 states. “CVS HealthHubs dedicate more than 20% of the store to health services that include new durable medical equipment, supplies and various new product and service combinations. CVS is adding thousands of new personal care items as well as additional services at its MinuteClinics in the HealthHub stores.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced today its proposed national coverage decision that would allow local Medicare administrative contractors to make the initial decision on whether to cover an artificial heart or a ventricular assist device for Medicare beneficiaries with end stage heart disease. Currently the devices are treated as experimental treatments that CMS can cover on an exception basis. The CMS announcement explains that 6.5 million Americans “are living with heart failure.” A CMS decision whether or not to finalize the proposal will be made within 60 days following the end of the 30 day public comment period which began today.

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control announced their “Hear Her” campaign to reduce maternal mortality.

Over 700 women die each year in this country from problems related to pregnancy or delivery complications. Every death is a tragedy, especially when we know that two thirds of pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented. As many as 50,000 women experience severe, unexpected health problems related to pregnancy that may have long-term health consequences.

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is committed to healthy pregnancies and deliveries for every woman. The Hear Her campaign supports CDC’s efforts to prevent pregnancy-related deaths by sharing potentially life-saving messages about urgent warning signs.

Women know their own bodies better than anyone and can often tell when something does not feel right. The campaign seeks to encourage partners, friends, family, coworkers, and providers—anyone who supports pregnant and postpartum women—to really listen when she tells you something doesn’t feel right. Acting quickly could help save her life.

How true. This campaign deserves support from health plans as well as healthcare providers.

Tuesday Tidbits

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today announced the companies that were awarded FEDVIP contracts for a seven year term beginning January 1, 2021. OPM added two new dental carriers — UnitedHealthCare (nationwide) and and HealthPartners (regional) for a total of twelve dental carriers. OPM added one new vision carrier — MetLife (all vision plans are nationwide) — for a total of five vision carriers beginning next year.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced an initiative to “transform rural health.” Healthcare Dive explains

CMS’s new payment model for rural hospitals and accountable care organizations that will use upfront and capitated payments. Participating facilities will be able to waive cost-sharing for Medicare Part B services, provide transportation for beneficiaries and expand telehealth services, among other flexibilities.

The Community Health Access and Rural Transformation model has two tracks, one of which is focused on ACOs. In the other track, $75 million will be provided to lead organizations in 15 rural communities, which will be announced early next year with a planned start of the model next summer.

The lead organizations, which can be state Medicaid agencies, local health departments or academic medical centers, among others, will receive $2 million after being accepted and another $3 million in upfront funding as the model progresses.

Fierce Healthcare discusses Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo which was announced Wednesday August 5. “The combination of two of the largest publicly-traded virtual care companies announced Wednesday will create a health technology giant just as the demand for virtual care soars.” However,

Both companies’ stock dropped Wednesday after news of the deal broke. Teladoc’s stock was down 15% and Livongo’s stock also fell by 14%. As of Thursday, both companies’ stock was still trading lower.

Analysts say the total deal price of $158.99 per share represents a 10% premium over Livongo stock’s record closing price of $144.53 as of Aug. 5, leading to the market pushback on the high valuation.

The Drug Channels blog offers its useful annual update “on pricing at five of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers—Eli Lilly, Janssen, Merck, Novartis, and Sanofi.” Drug Channels finds that

Average discounts from [prescription drug manufacturer] list prices have been deepening.Merck’s average discount rate went from -41% in 2016 to -44% in 2019, while Lilly’s rate went from -50% to -57%. We estimate that in 2019, the total value of gross-to-net reductions for brand-name drugs was $175 billion. That figure has doubled over the past six years.

In other encouraging news, STAT News tells us about an experimental drug to treat coronaviruses like COVID-19.

A research team at the University of California, San Francisco, has synthesized a molecule that they say is among the most potent anti-coronavirus compounds tested in a lab to date. Called nanobodies because they are about a quarter of the size of antibodies found in people and most other animals, these molecules can nestle into the nooks and crannies of proteins to block viruses from attaching to and infecting cells.
The lab-made one created by the UCSF team is so stable it can be converted into a dry powder and aerosolized, meaning it would be much easier to administer than Covid-19 treatments being developed using human monoclonal antibodies. While the work is still very preliminary, the goal is to deliver the synthetic nanobody via simple inhaled sprays to the nose or lungs, allowing it to potentially be self-administered and used prophylactically against Covid-19 — if it’s shown safe and effective in both animal tests and clinical trials.

Let’s go. This my friends is the difference between 1918 and 2020. We must have faith in medical research.

Finally the FEHBlog’s favorite podcast EconTalk provided a timely insight into Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in this week’s episode. Journalist and author Ben Cohen talked about his book, The Hot Hand, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The Hot Hand concerns streaks. and Shakespeare wrote three of his most popular plays, including Romeo and Juliet, from 1605-1606 when London was suffering from the plague. What’s more,

The reason why Romeo doesn’t know that Juliet has taken this potion and that she is simply sleeping and not actually dead is because this whole harebrained scheme had not been explained to him because he never gets the [explantory] letter [that a messenger was tasked to bring him].

So, if you think about it, it’s really a bonkers plot line. The flyer says, ‘I will–Juliet, take this sleeping potion, it will knock you out. Your family will think you’re dead. When they think you’re dead, Romeo is going to come back and he’s going to sweep you away and take you and live happily ever after.’

Now, this is the stuff that like you wouldn’t even see on a reality show or some terrible soap opera now. And yet, it’s our most famous love story.

And so, why does it fall apart? She takes the sleeping potion, right? She gets knocked out. Her family thinks she’s dead. Romeo comes back and sees her in the open crypt. All of the crazy stuff [Romeo and then Juliet committing suicide] actually turns out–where the whole scheme falls apart–is simply on getting a letter to Romeo. And it falls apart because the plague is sweeping through and the messenger gets stuck in quarantine.

So, all of this is the plague.

Now that’s a 1605 twist that rings true nearly 400 years later.

Friday Stats and More

This chart is based on the Centers for Disease Control’s Cases in the U.S. website for the week ending May 20th through the week ending July 23, which was a doozy in terms of new cases.

Here’s the CDC’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations Chart, which has been fairly stable since May:

The Wall Street Journal reports that

President Trump signed executive orders Friday aimed at reducing drug prices. The moves revived a signature part of his health-policy agenda before the 2020 election after his earlier efforts to combat rising prescription costs stalled.

One of the executive orders focuses on pegging the cost of drugs in the U.S. to lower drug prices overseas, and another concerns speeding imports of drugs from Canada. The pharmaceutical industry and some Republicans have criticized the first order, saying it amounts to price controls, while opponents of the second initiative say it raises questions about product safety.

Another would require community health centers to pass on negotiated discounts on insulin and epinephrine-injector devices to consumers. And a fourth would attempt to undercut “middlemen” whom Mr. Trump described as profiting from deals with drugmakers and don’t pass along discounts to consumers.

The moves are unlikely to result in immediate changes. The White House said they represent the administration’s policy and begin a rule-making process. That process can be arduous and face legal challenges.

The links inside the quote are to the Executive Orders themselves (The text of the first referenced Order on the use of international price indexing is not on whitehouse.gov yet).

Health Payer Intelligence informs us that “Over half of the public rate filings from payers on the individual and small group health insurance market are proposing 2021 premium rates changes between a two percent decrease and a six percent increase, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.” For more details, check out the KFF report.

Midweek update

Another rainy evening in Bethesda MD.

Get a load of this — public health benefits from the great hunkering down:

  • From the Wall Street Journal — “From Argentina to South Africa to New Zealand, countries in the Southern Hemisphere [where it is winter] are reporting far lower numbers of influenza and other seasonal respiratory viral infections this year. In some countries, the flu seems to have all but disappeared, a surprise silver lining that health experts attribute to measures to corral the coronavirus, like mask use and restrictions on air travel.”
  • and from the New York Times (thanks to a friend of the FEHBlog) — “This spring, as countries around the world told people to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, doctors in neonatal intensive care units were noticing something strange: Premature births were falling, in some cases drastically.”

The Wall Street Journal also reports that “[t]he U.S. has agreed to pay Pfizer Inc. PFE 5.10% and BioNTech SE nearly $2 billion to secure 100 million doses of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine to provide to Americans free of charge, the latest sign the government is readying plans to make vaccines available if proved to work safely.” Here is the HHS press release on this welcome purchase. The story reminded me of when the FEHBlog as a youngster was standing in a long line of his peers to receive the second polio vaccine.

On an unrelated note, Fierce Healthcare informs us that health “insurers are worried a raft of proposed changes to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program could lead to drug manufacturers gaming the system to charge higher prices.” The FEHBlog continue to believe that the upside opportunities from this change are greater than the downside, but he appreciates the skepticism.

Monday roundup

The Wall Street Journal seeks to answer a question that the FEHBlog has been pondering — “Scientists Hoped Summer Temperatures Would Tamp Down Covid-19 Cases. What Happened?” “There are three likely reasons, public-health and infectious-disease experts said. They have to do with the current [relatively low] levels of immunity in the population, how the virus is transmitted [by respiratory droplets] and how people behave [/fail to follow public health guidance].” Oh well.

The Hill reports that “The two main health insurance lobbying groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, wrote a letter to congressional leaders on Friday making a [wide] range of requests for the next coronavirus response package, expected later this month.” Check it out.

HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration today finalized a revised 42 CFR Part 2 rule intended to better facilitate coordination of patient care. Part 2, which dates back to 1975, applies to substance use disorder patient records held by certain federally assisted health care providers. Here is a link to the FAQs on the final rule. The next time that SAMHSA revises this rule it will do so to align the rule with the generally applicable HIPAA Privacy Rule in accordance with the CARES Act. The statutory deadline for this action is March 27, 2021.

Fedsmith offers an article discussing whether federal annuitants with FEHB coverage also should elect to purchase Medicare Part prescription drug coverage. Here is OPM’s guidance:

Part D: There is a monthly premium for Part D coverage. Most Federal employees do not need to enroll in the Medicare drug program, since all Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plans will have prescription drug benefits that are at least equal to the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage. Still, you may want to be aware of the benefits Medicare is offering, so you can help others make informed decisions. If you have limited savings and a low income, you may be eligible for Medicare’s Low-Income Benefits. For people with limited income and resources, extra help in paying for a Medicare prescription drug plan is available. Information regarding this program is available through the Social Security Administration (SSA). For more information about this extra help, visit SSA online at www.ssa.gov, or call them at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Friday Stats and More

This week’s chart of new COVID-19 cases (and deaths) is startling. Week 27 ended on July 9.

image004.png

What strikes the FEHBlog is that the number of COVID-19 related deaths has remained stable over this time period. If the number of new cases is a leading indicator of deaths, then the number of deaths should have steadily increased following week 20. That hasn’t happened. Why you ask? In the FEHBlog’s opinion, the at risk folks have been taking effective protective measures, and the doctors have learned better approaches to treating the disease.

On the COVID-19 vaccine front —

  • Medcity News reports that Moderna is making progress with its vaccine studies. If the studies prove successful, “The company said that it is on track to provide about 500 million and potentially up to 1 billion doses of the vaccine annually starting next year.”
  • Fierce Pharma reports that “In separate interviews this week, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said their mRNA vaccine candidate could be ready to submit to regulators in the fall or winter, respectively, pending success in a massive pivotal study yet to kick off.”

Fingers crossed.

Pharma Catalyst informs us that “more than 20 leading biopharmaceutical companies are launching the AMR Action Fund, a ground-breaking partnership to invest nearly $1 billion to ensure a robust and diverse pipeline of new medicines to treat drug-resistant infections.” That’s important too.

The Affordable Care Act created “grandfathered plan” status for electing employer sponsored plans. Grandfather status exempts the plan from many of the ACA mandates. The Obama Administration used its regulatory authority to minimize the availability of this exemption. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported last year that 13% of employees were covered under a grandfathered plan. Most of the grandfathering occurs in the midwest. That’s more than the FEHBlog expected to find. In any event, today the Trump Administration’s ACA regulators issued a proposed rule to create two new flexibilities that would help employers preserve grandfather plan status. Here’s a link to the FAQ on the proposed rule.

Midweek Update

A House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee approved by voice vote today the bill funding financial services and general government for the 2021 fiscal year. That bill encompasses OPM and the FEHBP. Yesterday’s FEHBlog post discussed the relevant substance of the bill considered today. The bill now moves onto full appropriations committee consideration.

Fierce Healthcare reports that “Healthcare leaders and health IT groups are calling on Congress to repeal a section of the law that prevents the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from working with the private sector to develop a nationwide patient identification strategy.” The advocates are pointing to the COVID-19 emergency as another reason for taking this sensible action. ” Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing efforts are hampered without accurate demographic information that correctly identifies the right patient.”

Also, on the COVID-19 front, the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) announced today that “The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, has established a new clinical trials network that aims to enroll thousands of volunteers in large-scale clinical trials testing a variety of investigational vaccines and monoclonal antibodies intended to protect people from COVID-19.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that

Drugmaker Emergent Biosolutions Inc. plans to work with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City to test whether a drug derived from the blood plasma of recovered Covid-19 patients can prevent infections in doctors, nurses and military forces. The proposed study, which the partners announced Wednesday, would add to efforts evaluating the coronavirus-fighting potential of experimental drugs made from plasma donated by recovered patients. If the drug proves to work safely, it could help protect health-care workers and other people working in essential jobs who are at high risk of infection until a vaccine is ready and perhaps even after.

On the general U.S. healthcare front Healthcare Dive reports that

Walgreens on Wednesday announced plans to open up to 700 primary care clinics across the country over the next five years in partnership with medical services provider VillageMD, and “hundreds more” after that. As part of the agreement, Walgreens will invest $1 billion in equity and convertible debt in Chicago-based VillageMD over the next three years, including a $250 million equity investment Wednesday. VillageMD will use 80% of the funds to pay for opening the clinics, called Village Medical at Walgreens, and integrate digitally with Walgreens.

and that

Walmart will now sell health insurance policies directly to its customers, a spokesperson told Healthcare Dive, confirming speculation sparked by job postings from the retailer for Medicare sales managers and insurance agents, first reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Analysts with SVB Leerlink said the move underscores the attractiveness of this market and the likelihood of increased competition over time, while Walmart’s reach across U.S. consumers — including seniors — has the potential to drive up volume for Medicare plans.

What’s more, Health Payer Intelligence discusses why some health plans seek out seriously ill members to wit “By developing a greater understanding of seriously ill populations, payers and policymakers can more accurately target their population health management strategies.”

And a Forbes columnist criticizes government telehealth parity mandates. The column provides an interesting perspective on the telehealth craze. As the FEHBlog’s late grandmother frequently advised “moderation in all things.”

Last but not least, FedWeek explores the OPM Federal Employees Benefits Survey to understand why some federal employees don’t enroll in our beloved FEHBP.

the survey found that of those not enrolled [roughly 19% of the surveyed population], 90 percent are obtaining health care through some other program, most commonly through a spouse’s employment and most commonly through the military TRICARE program. “Less than one percent of respondents said that they are not enrolled in FEHB and do not have health insurance because they do not think there is a need,” OPM said.

Tuesday Tidbits

Federal News Network reports that

House appropriators are silent on federal [employee] pay for now, increasing the likelihood that a planned 1% raise for civilian employees next year will advance as the president intended.

A draft budget bill for 2021, which the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government released Tuesday afternoon, makes no mention of a federal pay raise for General Schedule employees next year.

In their silence, House appropriators are essentially deferring to the proposal President Donald Trump offered earlier this year. In his budget request for 2021, the president recommended a 1% across-the-board federal pay raise for civilian employees next year, with no further locality pay adjustments. Military members are on track to receive a 3% pay raise next year.

The House bill also includes the three standard FEHBP appropriations clauses — a provision prohibiting the application of full Cost Accounting Standards coverage to FEHB plans (Sec. 611), a provision restricting abortion coverage (Sec. 611), and a provision mandating contraception coverage (Sec. 613).

Fortune Magazine discusses CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s comments on data accessibility and telemedicine at a Fortune conference today. Fierce Healthcare adds that “

CMS is eyeing ways to make expanding access to telehealth permanent, though the final word in overhauls to Medicare lies with Congress, Verma said. “It’s not a panacea; it’s not going to solve every problem,” she said. “Not everything is going to be able to be addressed by telehealth. But it’s a very powerful tool for medicine.”

Healthcare Dive provides us with background on the healthcare providers who received Payroll Protection Program loans from the federal government. In the FEHBlog’s book, the PPP is one of the best relief measures that Congress has dreamed up.

On the prescription benefit management front, Fierce Healthcare informs us that

Anthem’s pharmacy benefit manager IngenioRx will acquire ZipDrug, a data-driven pharmacy management company.

The acquisition expands IngenioRx’s offerings to include a platform that directs consumers to pharmacies with high-performing pharmacies and that offers home prescription delivery, the insurer announced (PDF) Monday.

IngenioRx will offer ZipDrug’s services both integrated into its broader PBM platform and as a standalone service, according to the announcement.

and that

Startup pharmacy benefit manager Capital Rx is teaming up with Walmart to bring greater transparency to specialty and mail-order prescriptions.

Capital Rx provides PBM services to employers and health plans through its “clearinghouse” model, in which they provide unit costs for drugs upfront to clients. The model is also designed to prevent “spread pricing,” in which a PBM charges a payer significantly more than a pharmacy’s price for a drug to reap profits.

Thursday Stats and More

As tomorrow is the federal holiday celebrating the Fourth of July, the FEHBlog will report COVID-19 stats today. It’s not pretty. The stats are based on the CDC’s COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. website.

Week endingTotal CasesTotal Deaths

May 21

297,581

8,956
June 4148,2107,561
June 18161,2894,865
June 25199,2525,270
July 2304,4966,215

The first row was the high point in new cases and new deaths over the past six weeks. The new cases are back at the mid-May level but deaths are still below mid-May (but above mid-June). The FEHBlog firmly believes that this new surge in cases will be more manageable than the first surge because doctors know how to manage the disease and treatments are available.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R Iowa), who is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced his Updated Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2020. It’s worth noting that the Senator’s Committee approved the 2019 version of this bill last summer by a 19-9 vote. Sen. Grassley then worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D. Ore.) to make the bill more bipartisan in nature. However, the bill has no Democrat Senator co-sponsors because after all this is an election year. There may wind being action on this bill in the lame duck session following the November election.

The Society for Human Resource Management offers three checklists to help employers avoid LGBTQ discrimination in their benefit programs following the recent Supreme Court decision including sexual orientation and gender identity within the scope of prohibited sex discrimination. Check it out.

The Department of Health and Human Services has posted its current list of sub regulatory guidance. The website explains that

On October 9, 2019, the President issued Executive Order (EO) 13891 entitled Promoting the Rule of Law through Improved Agency Guidance Documents (84 FR 552350). The EO requires HHS to establish a single, searchable, indexed database that contains links to all of HHS’s guidance documents currently in effect. Guidance documents come in a variety of formats, including interpretive memoranda, policy statements, manuals, bulletins, advisories, and more. Please note, the contents of this database do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. These documents are intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or HHS policies.

The FEHBlog looks forward to reviewing OPM’s companion site.

Speaking of OPM, Federal News Radio reports

Existing health and retirement benefits are a significant incentive for employees to take or keep a job in the federal government, according to the latest survey results from the Office of Personnel Management.

About 70% of those who took OPM’s 2019 benefits survey said the ability to receive insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program influenced their decision to a “great or moderate” extent to take a job in government, while 80% said the program influenced their decision to keep their jobs.

Hey what’s not to like? Great benefits and if you have FEHBP coverage for the five years preceding your civil service retirement you carry FEHBP coverage into retirement with the full government contribution. Well deserved benefits.

Monday Roundup

Modern Healthcare reports tonight that

HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo on Monday tweeted that HHS intends to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency that is set to expire on July 25. The extension would prolong the emergency designation by 90 days. Several payment policies and regulatory adjustments are attached to the public health emergency, so the extension is welcome news for healthcare providers.

The Centers for Disease Control released updated guidance on the use of cloth face coverings during the COVID-19 emergency.

Cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of cloth face coverings is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Healthcare Dive alerts us that

Gilead will charge between $2,340 and $3,120 for a typical course of treatment with its COVID-19 drug remdesivir, which has been shown to speed the recovery of patients hospitalized with the infectious disease.

The drug’s price will depend on whether patients are covered by government insurance or commercial health plans. Gilead will offer remdesivir to governments in developed countries at a price of $390 per vial. In the U.S., private insurers will pay $520 per vial. 

Most patients will be treated for five days, using six vials, Gilead said in announcing its much anticipated pricing decision Monday. If treatment stretches to 10 days — initially the standard treatment course — remdesivir’s cost would rise to $5,720 for patients who are commercially insured. 

The announced prices are in line with expert predictions.

MedCity News discusses Walmart’s new health clinics.

The company rolled out two Walmart Health clinics this month, in Loganville, Georgia and Springdale, Arkansas.

These aren’t your usual walk-in clinics that might serve as a quick place to get vaccinated or get a cold checked out. Rather, they’re more like a one-stop shop for healthcare, with primary care, urgent care, diagnostics, x-rays, behavioral health and dental care.

Walmart Health’s other big differentiator: A primary care appointment costs just $40. For children? $20.

Our firm is closely monitoring the impacts of COVID-19. Effective 6/08/20, Ermer & Suter has reopened its physical offices for business, however for the continued safety of our staff, in-office capacity will not exceed 40%. We remain fully operational and are readily available from both our office and telework locations.